by Francesca Baldry, Acton Collection Manager, NYU Florence

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women which occurs every 25th of November urges us to raise awareness of violence against women.

In order to do our part in furthering this global mission, Villa La Pietra will annually highlight a woman who is tied to the Acton Family collection – giving a voice to a female figure that had a place in the lesser known pages of history. A woman depicted in a work of art or an author of a book in the Acton collection,  a member of the family or a friend  who had a place in the lesser known pages of history. A woman we want to celebrate.

Vernon Lee, Caricature by Michael Willhoite, 1986

Vernon Lee (Boulogne-sur-Mer, 1856 – Firenze, 1935).

This year we are delighting to begin with Vernon Lee and a quote from The Golden Keys, 1925

“The Genius Loci is that portion of nations and civilizations which, while it speaks aloud in their philosophy and poetry and music, and is written clearly in the shapes of their buildings, addresses itself to the initiate mind in their humbler habits, kindly and gracious, sometimes childish and funny.” (The Golden Keys and Other Essays on the Genius Loci)

At 21 Harold Acton’s review to this book affirmed: “ ‘Nous sommes enfermés dans notre personne comme dans une prison perpétuelle,’ wrote Anatole France, but Vernon Lee has escaped!”

Beside her passion for history and theatre, Vernon Lee should also be remembered for her petitions to limit the demolitions of the ancient city center in Florence, for her awareness to protect the landscape and for her belief in the fundamental role of education  (see Proemio in La Donna e L’Economia sociale, 1902). She was fluent in four languages, and became a central figure in the literary and social circles of her day.

The La Pietra Library holds 13 books owned by Harold and his mother Hortense Mitchell.